We had planned 2 activities for the day: 1) a 7 mile hike to an area called Ptarmigan Falls which is supposed to offer nice views of several surrounding glaciers in addition to an number of waterfalls, and 2) a series of 2 boat rides that would take us to Grinnell Glacier, and offer views of several other glaciers from the water.
By the time we drove to Many Glacier, got breakfast, bought tickets for the afternoon boat trip be actually began hiking at 10am, which was later than I planned.
We were scheduled to take a 2pm boat, which allowed 4 hours to hike 7 miles to Ptarmigan Falls and back. It was a nice hike, and largely uphill going out. The biggest difference as compared to our hikes in T. Roosevelt Park was the temperature, as it was about 20 degrees cooler at 75 degrees, which made it significantly more comfortable.
The girls really moved fast, and there was no complaining. Katelyn was especially strong on this day, and all of the girls were much more confident after our long hikes in North Dakota.
The hills were starting to take a toll on Xiu, and by the end of the first 7 miles she was definitely feeling tired.
Overall the hike was nice, although not exceptional. We had some nice views along the way, but when we finally reached Ptarmigan falls it was anticlimactic. It was nice, but nothing spectacular. Plus, it was tucked into an area where views were largely from the top looking down.
So, after a 3.5 mile climb, we needed to head back down. We covered the 3.5 miles in 1.5 hours, which meant that if we made the same time going back we would have 30 minutes in the RV for lunch before we needed to go to the boat.
It was more rushed than I liked, but that is the price for getting a late start!
We made it back to the RV in exact time, and had a quick lunch before scurrying off to the boat. We were among the last to board at about 1:57! Everyone was looking forward to a relaxing ride, but the ride across the first lake only took about 15 minutes.
We then had to disembark and hike to the second boat. This second trip again took about 15 minutes, where we had the option of taking a group hike to Grinnell Lake, or going on our own more aggressive and longer hike up in the direction of the glacier. Access to the glacier was still restricted due to snow, however everyone agreed that we would go for the more aggressive hike, which made me happy!
The hike up to Grinnell Glacier was a steady climb that really pushed Xiu. I was extremely proud of how well the girls did, and I can really see them becoming stronger and more confident with each day of hiking. We climbed straight up for 2 straight miles, which could be felt in the thighs.
I hiked ahead of everyone because I did not want to be pushing them, but around each turn I would see Emma or Madison first appear, followed closely by Katelyn, and then about 25 yards later Xiu would appear. Xiu was working hard to keep up, but the uphill climb was tough!
Once we finally reached the area still covered by snow we took some pictures, made some snowballs, and changed directions and headed down. Xiu felt much better going down, and the girls felt so good that they were running ahead to create dams with the waterfalls that were crossing the path. Everyone had quite a good time on the way down.
Once we almost reached the boat, we realized that it was only 2.5 miles to continue the hike all the way back to the starting point. Since we had already hiked 11 miles for the day, I did not expect that everyone would opt for this, but the unanimous decision was to continue hiking. It turned out to be a good and exciting decision, because after about a mile we got word that there was a bear sighting nearby...not that we were looking for a close encounter with bears! However, and we were walking around a lake, we could see a mother Black Bear walking with 2 cubs.
They were coming around the lake in our direction on the same path, so we continued walking until I got to an area where I could see about 50 yards down the path.
I waited with my camera to see if the bears would emerge, and in a few minutes they came rumbling around. I captured a few pictures and continued to move down the path, keeping the bears at a safe distance until we reached a bridge.
I crossed the bridge and again waited to take pictures as they walked by, since I assumed they would not cross the bridge. However, as the bears approached the bridge, the mother bear turned and started to walk across while the cubs stayed on the other side.
I again took some pictures and then took off down the path. I later heard from some hikers who chose to stay a but closer that all three bears did cross the bridge, and then turned into the woods at the other side.
So, we had a very eventful day that included 13+ miles of hiking and a close encounter with 3 Black Bears.
When we finally got back to the RV it was 6pm, and we drove back to St. Mary Visitor Center to prepare a quick dinner and go in to hear a Ranger discussion on the Mountain Goat, which we all agreed was outstanding.
We finally arrived back to our campsite at 9:30pm, and the girls were all asleep at 10:30. It was a nice day!
Today we drove from our campsite at St. Mary on the east side of Glacier park to an area called 'Many Glacier' which is 8 miles north and west into the park.